After a 13-year career, eight LPGA victories and having a hand in pioneering women's golf in Korea, Mi Hyun Kim will make her final appearance as a professional this week in Incheon. Kim will be playing in her first event this season on a sponsor's exemption and hopes to go out on a high note.
"I played in the US since 1999," said Kim. "For all my Korean fans, I thought it would be good if I close my career in Korea. To be honestly, I didn't qualify for this tournament because I didn't play enough to qualify post-season. But LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship gave me an opportunity to finish my career. I'm very appreciative for that."
Kim, who joined the Tour in 1999 and one year after Se Ri Pak joined, recorded two wins in her first season en route to Rookie of the Year honors. Pak claimed the top rookie nod a year earlier and a movement in Korean women's golf began.
Pak, Kim and Grace Park have been deemed the ground breakers for Koreans on the LPGA Tour. Park currently lives in nearby Seoul and has been at the Sky 72 Golf Club to take in the event as a spectator for the first time since retiring this year at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June.
"I'm very proud of it," Park said on being called a pioneer. "I'm sure they are too. It's the highest compliment to say because of us, Korean golf has gotten so good. It's nice to see so many young golfers following in our footsteps and coming up to us and saying you were my idol. I know how hard it's been for Kimmy fighting through injuries and I wish her the best in retirement."
Kim stated injuries to her knee and ankle as the top reason for retiring and said her competitive nature as since dwindled from her playing career. Her last win came in May 2007 at SEMGroup Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons. She notably donated $100,000 of her $210,000 winnings to a small town in Kansas that had just been devastated by a tornado. Asked what would happen if she were to win this week, Kim said she will but will be giving back if she's lucky enough.
"I don't think it's going to happen but if I win, I'll donate all of my prize," said Kim. "And that's all. I don't have a plan to come back."
Referred to as "Kimmy" in the Tour circles, Kim made 19 starts last year, making 15 cuts. Her best finish came at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G when she tied for 10th. She said she looks forward to hanging up the clubs and starting the new phase in her life, devoting more time to her family and starting a golf academy.